Busted! S2E1 Recap: Hell of the Gods: Tartarus

Personally, I think Season 2 is my favorite of the three Busted! seasons. I really enjoyed most of its episodes (except for one really creepy one that I’ll have to get to later), and there were some truly great guest stars. I also liked how there was a more solid plot line that connected everything. I’ve seen the whole thing three times now – technically four as I’m going through again for these recaps – and I always discover new details every time. This is why I loved Busted! It’s a variety show, but it’s fascinating how much detail the writers put into the story as well.

Episode Guest Stars

Season 2 is unique in that it features some recurring guest stars who are a major part of an overarching plot line. (As opposed to Season 1, where most of the cases coincidentally turned out to be loosely connected to Project D.) There are four of these people, and they will appear in multiple episodes. I’ve marked them with asterisks below, and I’ll point them out when they first appear.

(I apologize for the not-necessarily-flattering quality of these photos – I mostly work with GIFs, so it’s a little harder to screenshot good images than I thought. But the aim is really just to give names to faces here.)

Ahn Naesang
(actor, recurring guest)

Kim Minjae*
(actor, recurring guest)

Im Wonhee

Yoon Jonghoon*
(actor, recurring guest)

An Important Note

I’ve tried my best to summarize everything in these recaps, but sometimes there are parts of an episode or the overall story that aren’t clear to me. I’m in Korea, so I have Korean Netflix – they have English subtitles for all the dialogue, but not necessarily all of the captions and titles they put in the show. I’m sure that sometimes I miss things, and sometimes I may arrive at the wrong conclusion. But I’ll make sure to highlight the parts where I’m confused or unsure about certain details.

***WARNING!*** THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE EPISODE/SERIES AHEAD. These recaps are written summary style – I’m writing as if I’ve watched these episodes for the first time, but this is primarily aimed towards people who have seen the series before and want to refresh their memory or find answers to certain questions. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE SERIES AND ARE PLANNING TO, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

Previously on Busted! Season 1

Seven amateur detectives were brought together by a man named K (Ahn Naesang) to form a crime-solving team. These people were Yoo Jaesuk, Ahn Jaewook, Kim Jongmin, Lee Kwangsoo, Park Minyoung, Oh Sehun, and Kim Sejeong. They found out that they were once part of Project D, an experiment to create the perfect detective in order to eliminate crime. They had microchips with famous detectives’ DNA implanted into the backs of their necks, but there were some errors and they lost their memories. (We never find out exactly what those memories were, but it doesn’t seem to matter much in the long run.) But since the microchips still functioned to some extent, K decided to hire them anyway and observe their progress.

The team solved several cases together, many of which coincidentally had a connection to Project D. Eventually, they ended up with another microchip that would supposedly fix the project’s errors. However, K’s former collaborator C (Kim Jeongtae) turned on him and wanted to use Project D to create the perfect crime instead. He kidnapped K and got the team to hand over the microchip, but they managed to foil his plans and get him arrested. Unfortunately, Jaesuk was supposedly killed during the final mission while trying to recover the microchip; because of this, the team went their separate ways for a while.

It’s worth noting that Project D is not a major theme for this season. It’s part of the first couple of episodes, but then it takes a backseat to a different mystery. Having seen Season 3, I can also tell you that it’s not a major part of that story either (despite what the trailer seems to imply). So if you have any lingering questions about Project D like I do, you might not get the answers to them.

Episode Recap

One year after Jaesuk’s presumed demise, the surviving six detectives are kidnapped and taken to a mysterious location. Each person wakes up chained up in a strange room that he or she needs to escape from. They find recorders in their pockets; when played, a disguised voice informs them that this place is called Tartarus – one of the names for the underworld in Greek mythology, specifically the part that resembles hell. The detectives must atone for their “sins” in order to get the key to escape.

Personally, I love this episode SO MUCH. It’s definitely one of my favorites, if not my #1. I used to be one of those know-it-all mythology kids in middle school, so it’s like this episode was made for me. There are so many cool connections and references, even if some of them are a little forced because some of the detectives (mainly the women) don’t really have any “sins” to speak of. Since there’s a lot of cross-editing and jumping around, I’m just going to explain the basic concept and solution for each room in the order that they’re introduced.

The Rooms of Tartarus

Kwangsoo’s Room – Sisyphus

Kwangsoo’s “sin” is that he was the “betrayer” – like in Episode 8 when Sehun solved the locked room case and he stole all the credit (because there was money involved). In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was known to be a trickster. There are several stories where he duped different gods and managed to escape death numerous times. His punishment in hell was probably one of the most famous ones: he was forced to eternally push a boulder up a hill, but the boulder would always roll back down whenever it got too close to the top. Kwangsoo’s task is designed pretty much the same way; his room is a basin filled with water and giant models of the planets, surrounded by statues of the Greek gods. He has to roll each planet up to its corresponding statue, but the water is very soapy and seems to fill up at random times… so the planets often slide back down before he’s finished.

I accidentally forgot to slow down the speed on this GIF… but I’m just going to leave it because now it looks even more comical XD

Sejeong’s Room – Tantalus

Sejeong is labeled as a “glutton” – there were a couple of times in Season 1 when she got distracted by food and supposedly thought about that instead of the case. (I don’t know why, but I just find this “sin” so amusing.) In Greek mythology, Tantalus was a king who was invited to dine with the gods and stole some of their food. He offered to make the gods another meal to appease their anger, but he killed his son to serve as the main course. As punishment, he was made to stand in a pool of water below a fruit tree in Tartarus. Every time he reached for food, the tree branches would move away. Every time he tried to drink water, the pool would recede. So he was sentenced to be eternally hungry and thirsty. This is not mirrored in Sejeong’s task at all because her mission is eating, but I guess the connection is that it’s all food related. There are five dishes on their own separate burners, and Sejeong is instructed to eat them all. It might not seem like much of a punishment, but the trick is that all of the cutlery is made of ice… and sometimes the burners randomly ignite, which causes them to break and/or melt.


Sehun’s Room – Danaus

Sehun’s “sin” is that he’s too competitive. We all remember Episode 9 where he spent tons of time (and Kwangsoo’s money) on the claw machines. Well… now he’s been turned into one. Suspended over a shallow pool, he has to maneuver himself around to untie and retie several ropes below the water. The ropes are colored, so he has to tie the ones with the same color. This is the one room where I don’t quite understand the mythological connection. Danaus was a king who had fifty daughters called the Danaides. His brother had fifty sons, and forced him to give over his daughters to them in marriage. (Incest = a common theme of Greek mythology.) So, he gave all of his daughters knives and ordered them to kill their husbands on their wedding nights. I don’t really see how any of that story has to do with being too competitive. Also, Danaus wasn’t punished for orchestrating this mass killing – his daughters were for following his orders! (Sexism = another common theme of Greek mythology.) Their punishment was to spend eternity pouring into water into a jar that was cracked and could therefore never be filled. So maybe the water is the connection? Or maybe it’s because Danaus manipulated his daughters, and Sehun has to figure out how to manipulate the claw machine? I don’t know. It’s probably not that deep.

Sehun the living claw machine.

Jaewook’s Room – Echo

Jaewook is branded a coward because he’s afraid of a lot of things – mainly snakes. This challenge attempts to force him to face those fears. His room has a scale with two large open containers, and a glass of water in between. There are also two cages – one filled with larvae, and one with a TON of snakes. He has to put enough of each animal into the containers so that the water in the glass remains level… but sometimes a metal ball comes rolling out and makes the scale even heavier (meaning he has to add even more to balance it out). Jaewook’s fear of snakes apparently DOES runs deep, because he’s immediately like, “I’m never going to get out of here.” #relatable

The namesake of Jaewook’s room isn’t directly related to his “sin,” but it does have something to do with the overall mission. Echo was a nymph who helped Zeus out by distracting his wife Hera whenever he went off to cheat on her, and Hera cursed her so that she could only repeat what others said – hence the origin of the word “echo.” Echo fell in love with Narcissus, but he was arrogant and only loved himself – hence the origin of the words “narcissism” and “narcissist.” So he never reciprocated her love, and she wasted away until only her voice was left. In Jaewook’s case, the Echo connection means that he has to be quiet. There’s a meter on the wall that measures how loud he is; if he gets scared and yells or screams too loudly, something happens. More on this later.

Jaewook’s room.

Jongmin’s Room – Ixion

Jongmin’s sin is laziness. He rarely solved any of the puzzles or missions last season, and he let the others do all the work. Any success he achieved on his own was pure luck. So this time, he actually has to solve a set of math puzzles that can be seen around the room. If he does them correctly, he should get three numbers. Then, dialing those numbers on the phone attached to his chair should free him. However, there is a giant paper balloon filled with bugs right above his head. (You can only see their shadows, but I thought I spotted a couple of cockroaches and FREAKED OUT.) The chair he’s sitting on randomly rises, so he could get showered with insects if he doesn’t solve the problems quickly.

Much like Jaewook’s room, the namesake Ixion is more of an aesthetic reference and isn’t tied to the mission itself. In Greek mythology, Ixion schemed to kidnap Hera. An angry Zeus made a fake version of his wife out of clouds, and Ixion fell for it and carried the cloud woman off. As punishment, he was tied to a flaming wheel for all eternity. This flaming wheel is part of the Rube Goldberg machine that activates if Jongmin can accurately solve the puzzle.

Jongmin’s room. You can’t see it in this shot, but the paper balloon of insects is over his head.

Like I’ve said before, I’m pretty terrible at math… so I don’t fully understand the first puzzle Jongmin had to solve. And the show kind of glossed over it without fully explaining it, so I’m just going by the screenshot I took. It kind of looks like a giant Sudoku puzzle made of nine regular ones. So each individual puzzle has to contain the numbers 1-9 without overlapping, and the rows and columns have to as well. Then Jongmin has to find certain number values indicated on the chart by Hangul letters and add them into the equation at the bottom to get the number – which the show says is 339, so I’ll go with that.

The answer to the first puzzle.

The second and third puzzles are a little more straightforward (to me) because they’re about dice. For the second puzzle, you have to find the number that’s opposite to the one on the side that’s being shown. The picture shows 1, 3, and 4. The opposite of that is 6, 4, and 3, so the answer is 13. Then for the third puzzle, you have to remember that the opposite of 1 on a die is 6, so then you have to add up the rest of the numbers. So 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 14. So the full phone number is 010-339-1415.

The second puzzle.

The third puzzle.

Minyoung’s Room – Cassandra

Minyoung finds herself in a room with several different TV monitors. One of them shows several shots of Jaesuk tied up somewhere with a crossbow pointing at him – which means they all have to escape their rooms quickly. The other monitors are colored and show the five other members in their respective rooms. There’s also a conveyer belt which occasionally brings her a row of black boxes. Some of those boxes have colored microphones that match with the monitors, and they allow her to communicate with her teammates and try and help them – but she has a limited amount of time before the conveyer loops around again. And she’s chained to some kind of pulley that will occasionally shorten her chain and force her back to the other side of the room.

Communication is hard.

Minyoung is compared to Cassandra, which I find super interesting. Out of all these chosen Greek mythological figures, Cassandra is the only one who didn’t commit a sin. (Except for maybe Echo, although helping a serial cheater isn’t great.) Cassandra was a princess of Troy and priestess who caught Apollo’s attention. He gave her the gift of prophecy, but was angered when she rejected his advances. So, he added the curse that no one would believe her prophecies. Nearly all the events of the Trojan War would have never happened if people had listened to her warnings… so that’s a bummer. I did check Wikipedia, and there’s apparently a version where Cassandra was cursed because she promised Apollo that she would sleep with him in exchange for her gifts and then went back on her word. So if they were going by that version, then I guess Cassandra could be considered a sinner. But I prefer the version I already knew, so I’m sticking with that.

Much like Cassandra, Minyoung doesn’t really have a “sin” that she can be labeled with. So the unknown people behind the test chastise her for being the person always in the middle… aka a busybody. And the parallel the show draws with Cassandra is that the other members have been told not to trust her – it’s written on the walls that “Cassandra” incurred the wrath of the gods, and they shouldn’t believe what she says. I think the intention was that they were supposed to not to listen to Minyoung attempting to aid them, but this backfires because they all know she’s the smartest one and barely question her. Except for Kwangsoo and Jongmin at one point, but they’re mostly just trolling.

The Connection Between the Rooms

After Minyoung observes the others struggling for a bit, she notices there’s a pattern. Did you notice that I said a lot of things randomly happens in the rooms? Those are actually caused by another member. Each room has a secret condition; so if the person in that room unknowingly doesn’t meet it, it makes things harder for someone in a different room. Here’s the chain of reaction:

  • If Jaewook gets too scared and screams/shouts too loudly, the claw carrying Sehun will malfunction and dump him in the water. (So this is the reference to “Echo” and her voice.)
  • If Sehun makes a mistake, the burners in Sejeong’s room will activate and melt her ice cutlery if she’s eating.
  • If Sejeong opens the fridge to get a new set of ice utensils, Kwangsoo’s room will fill with more soapy water. This makes it harder for him to roll the planets up the wall, and it also makes it possible for the planets that were already placed to slide back.
  • If any of the planets in Kwangsoo’s room roll back down into the basin, Jongmin’s chair will rise and bring him closer to the paper balloon of insects over his head.
  • If Jongmin dials a wrong number on his telephone, a heavy metal ball gets added to Jaewook’s scale and he must add more larvae and snakes to keep the balance.

The Rest of the Episode

Now that the team has been made aware of these conditions, they work together with Minyoung’s help. Kwangsoo, Sejeong, and Sehun are able to quickly complete their missions and escape their rooms to discover they’re on some kind of abandoned lot with various different buildings. Kwangsoo goes to Jongmin’s room, only to run away when he sees the insects. Meanwhile, Sehun finds that Jaewook has moved a few larvae, but predictably has not touched any of the snakes. Minyoung says over the intercom that Sehun can move the snakes instead, and Sehun looks… less than enthused. He does have enough bravery to pick one up with a stick, but Kwangsoo and Sejeong happen to arrive right when he’s putting it on the scale and all hell breaks loose. Kwangsoo bolts once again, though he does eventually calm down and go to help out Jongmin.

We’re then treated to yet another segment of one of the women stepping up and taking charge of icky stuff while the men all freak out in the background. Sejeong manages to move all of the snakes as Sehun and Jaewook watch. (To be fair, Sehun does seem to be trying to be helpful… in any other way besides touching another reptile.) She attempts to calm the snakes by sweet-talking them, but generally ends up dumping them in the container while shrieking her apologies – which is hilariously endearing.

Whatever works!

Now that most of the team is free, they go get Minyoung. To open the door to her room, they have to put their keys in certain locks. The hint to the answer was in Sehun’s room, when he had to match the colored ropes (same colors as the keys and the monitors in Minyoung’s room). Each colored rope has a certain Roman numeral, which shows the correct order. There is a chest in Minyoung’s room – “Pandora’s Box” – that contains the key to free her. They can open it using the answer from Jongmin’s mission (1314), because his was the only one that had to do with numbers. The chest also contains a paper with the building number D-4207, which is where Jaesuk is being held.

They rush to the new location, only to get a shock when Jaesuk appears to be shot by a crossbow. (It was set up to automatically fire). Thankfully, it’s not the real Jaesuk – it’s just a mannequin. When they examine it, they find the message “FIND US” plus 2 keys that say “FILE” and “BOSS.” They surmise that “FILE” means the microchip, and “BOSS” means K. The “FILE” key has D-11 marked on the back, which they assume is a room number. They also find a golden plate, which is a hint to determining which buildings to go to – they have to switch the letters to the numbers they resemble, and flip or reverse them. So “BOSS” becomes “8055” and then “5508” when reversed. There’s a mark on the plate that turns the “F” to another “E,” so “FILE” becomes “3713” when flipped.

The gold plate hint.

The team splits up into two groups. Jaewook, Sehun, and Sejeong go to the “BOSS” location and find Jaesuk – he’s alive! (Like I said in the last recap, I feel like this was always pretty obvious since he’s like the most famous person on the show… so it’s not *that* surprising.) He prepared all of these Tartarus tests along with K. During the season finale, K told Jaesuk not to trust anyone. So Jaesuk spent a year secretly observing his teammates to make sure they were trustworthy, and then re-initiated them with all of the Tartarus stuff. He expects that the others will show up with K, who’s supposed to be waiting with the file…but only Jongmin and Minyoung arrive. K was not at the building, and neither was the file. What’s more, Kwangsoo has completely disappeared. And on top of that, K isn’t picking up his phone. Jaesuk is concerned because this is not what was planned, so he takes them all to K’s vacation home.

While they’re en route, they get a text from Kwangsoo saying: “I have the microchip. I did this for a reason. Please trust me. I will go back.” We see in flashbacks that after he escaped from his room, he didn’t go straight to find Jongmin. He actually went to the “FILE” location and switched the room labels. Then, he pocketed the microchip and ran away while Jongmin and Minyoung were searching the wrong room. I’m going to break continuity and say the reason that the show did this was because Kwangsoo couldn’t be a full time cast member this season. He was filming another drama or movie (can’t remember which), so he could only participate in this episode as a guest. But they left things open ended so that he could return… which he does in Season 3!

Anyway, the team arrives at K’s home and is surprised to find it’s a crime scene with police everywhere. They meet Detective Im Wonhee, who’s not really impressed that they’re amateur detectives and won’t let them in despite Sejeong’s most cringy aegyo attempts. He grumbles that they’re challenging his authority – but he softens a bit when he sees Jaewook, because apparently they were on the force together. (Jaewook’s original character persona is a retired police agent, and some members of the team refer to him as “형사님” – a polite/formal way of addressing a detective.) Detective Im eventually agrees to let them inside and has his subordinate, the stoic Sergeant Kim Minjae, accompany them.

Much to the team’s dismay, they discover that K has been murdered. He was found in bed stabbed in his sleep. There is a sunflower lying on his corpse, and Minjae states that this might be the Flower Killer‘s work. Who is the Flower Killer? A serial murderer who’s gotten a lot of attention in the press lately, and who always leaves a flower at the scene of his crime. And someone we’re going to keep hearing a *lot* about, because his identity is the main mystery of the season. Minjae is contradicted by his coworker Lieutenant Yoon Jonghoon, a CSI who declares that it can’t be the Flower Killer because he never leaves wounds or blood. He also points out that the stab wound was not done by an expert.

(VERY IMPORTANT!!!! Kim Minjae and Yoon Jonghoon are important recurring characters, and they will appear in multiple episodes. Im Wonhee will also return, but he’s less crucial to remember.)

Upon examining K’s body, the team finds a QR code on his arm. When Sehun scans it, it pulls up a video of a younger K confronting a tied up man identified as Ji Taeseok. We never got his name before, but he should be a familiar face – he was the father of Ji Yoonha, the girl who was murdered in Episode 4. Last season (or two episodes ago), the team had an important encounter with Yoo Yeonseok, one of the first test subjects for Project D. Taeseok helped him escape because the adversaries were planning on taking control of him. According to another former test subject (Kang Sungjin), Taeseok was killed for aiding Yeonseok and giving him the key to finding the microchip. This is all connected to the QR code video, because it shows K yelling that Taeseok stole an important test subject (meaning Yeonseok). They can see C reflected in the mirror, so this is apparently before C betrayed K. Except from what I understood from Season 1, Taeseok helped Yeonseok escape BECAUSE C was trying to manipulate him… so maybe it’s more correct to say that this is before C openly betrayed K. All this will be very important next episode.

Jaesuk recalls that K told him to find “Tartarus” on the second floor of the house if something bad happened to him. They go upstairs to find an office with traces of Project D and floor plans for the Tartarus test they just completed. They note that Kwangsoo’s floor plan is missing, and one of the cameras that usually hang from his backpack is on the floor. A flashback reveals that he came to the house last night and stole this, though we don’t really get any insight into what his motivations were. It also seems he was there around the time K got murdered, because he heard a noise and jumped out the window to flee – which is why one of the cameras on his backpack broke off.

The “Tartarus” K was referring is a set of clocks: there are four with the letters TA, RT, AR, and US. They have to set the clocks to a certain time for something to happen. Minyoung solves it by numbering the letters (1 for A, 2 for B, etc.) T is 20, A is 1, R is 18, U is 21, and S is 19. The first letter in each pair represents the hour, and the second letter the minute. If you look at the double digit numbers as military time, you get the following times: 8:01 (TA), 6:20 (RT), 1:18 (AR), and 9:19 (US).

The solution to the clock puzzle.

The clocks open to reveal a scroll with several pictures on it. The first references a telescope in the room. The idea is to look into it and go where it’s pointing at, then search for the next image – then go to that spot and repeat the process. The telescope is pointing at the rooftop of a building, so they go there and look for a while until Sehun spots the next symbol on a house. From there, they see the next symbol is a bridge. And when they get on the bridge, they see their final destination – a hotel that looks like a castle. The last image on the paper is a reference to the hotel room number: 609.

The drawings of the clues.

The house shape.

The hotel that looks like a castle.

Where the telescope points to.

The bridge (or the arch shape).

When the team gets to the hotel room, they use the “BOSS” key they won from the Tartarus test to go inside. They discover some of K’s files detailing previous murderers and culprits from last season, like Lee Kiwoo (Episode 3) and Park Haejin (Episode 5). I found it really interesting that the show highlighted the two criminals that the detectives failed to capture last season, though it doesn’t really appear to mean anything. K was also looking into the Flower Killer, the one who Jonghoon said couldn’t *possibly* have murdered him. Hmmm. Lastly, there’s a very threatening letter from C, which makes the team think that he could have killed K. Just at that moment, the team receives a text from Detective Im. It’s a news report that a certain dangerous and crazy genius scientist has escaped from the mental hospital he was being held at. Gee, I wonder who that is.

Next episode: The team searches for C hoping to get answers about K’s death, but they end up investigating a couple more murders than they bargained for.

NOTE: All photos and GIFs are screenshots or screen captures from Busted! Season 2 Episode 1 on Netflix. Nothing belongs to me, and all images are used here for illustrative purposes only.

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